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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian conscripts will not serve in volatile North Caucasus - Defense Ministry

RIA Novosti


MOSCOW, April 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will not send conscripts to serve in the volatile region of Chechnya, a Defense Ministry spokesman said on Friday.

This spring, more than 270,000 men aged 18 to 27 will be enlisted in compulsory 12-month military service in Russia. Conscription began on Thursday.

"The Defense Ministry does not plan to send conscripts to military service in the Chechen Republic ... This is not necessary," Col. Alexei Kuznetsov, said.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily quoted on Friday a military source as saying that the Defense Ministry was planning to reverse the practice of deploying only volunteers serving on contracts to Chechnya and would send conscripts to serve there.

The statement created fears among the parents of conscripts as militant attacks in Russia's southern volatile republics of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia are common. The recent terrorist attacks in Moscow and Kizlyar (Dagestan) have contributed to concerns of the conscripts' parents to keep their children out predominantly dangerous zones.

"The military units within the territory of Chechnya are staffed by soldiers serving on contracts," Kuznetsov said.

The number of soldiers serving on contract grew during the reform of the Russian armed forces in 2008-2009. However, many top military officials say they are too expensive to replace conscripts altogether.

Col. Gen. Vasily Smirnov, the Chief of the Main Organization and Mobilization Directorate of the Russian General Staff, told RIA Novosti on Thursday that the Defense Ministry had decided to abandon plans of the massive transition to contractors.

Smirnov said contracted soldiers would be selected for specific specialties like mine experts, engineers, snipers and other specialties that require expensive equipment and training.

In line with the ongoing military reform, the Russian Armed Forces will be downsized to 1 million personnel by 2016, enlisting 150,000 officers and about 745,000 soldiers.

The length of military service for draftees will remain unchanged at 1 year.

According to Smirnov, the number of contracted soldiers will be reduced but their salaries will be sharply increased.

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